Dark circles usually happen due to insufficient sleep and lack of nutrition. However, dark circles in children may be caused due to other reasons as well. Dr. Cindy Gellnar, a board-certified physician in her interview transcript to the University of Utah (1), says, “Dark circles under the eyes in children could be due to nasal congestion and genetics.” Read this post to know more about the causes, risk factors, complications, and treatment of dark circles in kids.
What Can Cause Dark Circles In Children?
Dark circles usually form when the veins under the eyes constrict, with decreased blood flow, causing hyperpigmentation, or thinning of the skin around the eyes enlarge and become dark. As the skin under the eyes is thin, it might not be able to conceal them and hence looks dark and pigmented. Sometimes, blood or other fluids get accumulated in the grooves of the eye and look like bags under the eyes; this condition is known as shiners (2).
Here are a few possible causes for dark circles under the eyes in children:
1. Nasal congestion: Prolonged congestion of mucous membranes (in the case of sinus infections) of the nasal cavities might exert pressure on the veins under the skin and restrict the blood flow in them, resulting in dark circles under the eyes. Studies state that children with dark circles are also found to be persistent mouth-breathers, which may increase the risk of developing dental abnormalities (3).
2. Allergic rhinitis: Dark circles could be due to prolonged allergies. Nasal congestion caused by allergies may, in turn, result in dark circles. Allergic rhinitis could be triggered by airborne elements such as dust, pollen, animal dander, or molds. The dark circles due to allergic rhinitis are known as allergic shiners. Some of the other signs of allergic rhinitis include:
- Denni morgan lines
- Upturned nose
- High arched palate
- Cobblestoning of the pharynx
- Persistent breathing through the mouth
- Rubbing the nose persistently, with a nasal crease
- Sniffing and clearing of the throat (4)
3. Asthma: According to the Asthma and Allergy Foundation of America, dark circles under the eyes could be an early warning sign for asthma (5). Also, prolonged allergic rhinitis could be linked to asthma (4). Other prominent symptoms and signs of asthma include:
- Coughing worse at night, early morning, and during exercise
- Changes in breathing and sputum
- Difficult breathing
- Feeling tired and weak
- tightness in chest
- Prolonged congested nose
- Hoarseness in the voice
4. Genetics: If your child is not showing any abnormal signs but still has dark circles, then it could be hereditary. Research states that dark circles could be genetic, with some having them mildly and some heavily (6).
5. Other causes: Sometimes, dark circles or swelling under the eyes might also occur due to forehead, nose, or face surgery, eating salty meals (due to fluid retention) or neuroblastoma (2) (7). Dark circles can also happen due to:
- Hyperpigmentation is due to increased melanin production of both the epidermis and the dermis
- Dehydration following severe diarrhea and vomiting
- Non- accidental injury
Dr. Yuna Rapoport, MD, MPH, a board-certified ophthalmologist from New York, says, “Most of the time, it is normal for dark circles to exist. However, you should be concerned and seek medical care if the dark circles look more like bruising, if they came on suddenly, and if your child is having other medical issues like nausea or vomiting. Most of the time, the causes of under eye circles in children are the same as that in adults: fatigue, dehydration, or a cold.”
If your child is not showing any of the above abnormal symptoms, but still has dark circles, then monitor their sleep and iron levels as they may be contributing to the formation of dark circles around their eyes. In any case, the doctor will look for other symptoms that might help identify the cause.
Treatment For Dark Circles Under A Child’s Eyes
Dark circles may not need treatment, as they might subside when the underlying cause is treated. Here are a few precautions you could take to prevent dark circles.
- If the nasal congestion is because of allergies, then identify the trigger and make sure your child stays away from it.
- Consult your doctor and follow the treatment plan if your child is diagnosed with a sinus infection or asthma.
- Treat allergic rhinitis.
- Do not apply fairness creams or skin lightening creams as they could damage the delicate skin of your children.
- Make sure your child gets a good night’s sleep and nutrient-rich foods.
In addition to treating the underlying cause, you could consider trying a few home remedies that might help in soothing the skin around the eyes. Always do a patch test before trying these remedies on younger children, as some of them might cause irritation to the eye.
Also, there is little evidence to prove the effectiveness of these remedies. It is recommended that you consult your doctor before trying them out.
1. Almond oil: It is said to help in improving complexion and skin tone (8), so it might help in reducing the darkness around the eyes. If you are trying it, make sure the oil is pure and is free of any chemicals or other dilutions.
How it is used: Put two to three drops of almond oil on a cotton swab and wipe it around the eyes, let it stay for 15 minutes, and then wash it off. Repeat this for six to seven weeks. Be careful not to apply it too close to the lower eyelid.
2. Cold compress: It is believed that a cold compress can help in reducing the swelling of the blood vessels under the eye, thereby helping reduce puffiness and darkness under the eyes.
How it is used: Soak a washcloth in cold water and place it on your child’s eyes for 20 minutes. You can also wrap a few ice cubes in a washcloth and put it on the eyes. Do not make it too cold for the child to handle it.
3. Steam inhalation: This does not directly affect the dark circles but provides relief from nasal congestion. You may try steam inhalation to clear out the stuffy nose. Steam inhalation could worsen asthma, so avoid it if you think it might trigger an asthma attack.
How it is used: Encourage your child to take steam baths or help them inhale some warm air from a steamer to relieve nasal congestion.
4. Cucumber: High levels of vitamin K and lignans in cucumbers are said to help reduce dark circles and inflammation (9).
How it is used: Crush the cucumber and extract the juice. Soak cotton pads in the juice, place them on your child’s eyes and ask them to rest for 15 minutes. Repeat this thrice a week.
How it is used: Blend together some saffron in a teaspoon of raw milk and apply it under the eyes; wash it off after 15 minutes. Do this thrice a week. You may also include saffron in small quantities in the milk that your child consumes. However, make sure your child is not allergic to saffron and only add a pinch of it.
6. Milk cream: This is believed to moisturize the skin naturally and reduce dark circles and bags under the eyes (11).
How it is used: Apply milk cream under the eyes and leave it for 15 minutes before washing it off. Repeat this thrice a week. Do not apply it too close to the lower eyelid as it may enter the eyes and cause irritation.
7. Potato juice: This is said to be a rich source of vitamin C and might help in nourishing the skin under the eyes.
How to: Crush potatoes and extract the juice, apply it under your child’s eyes, but not too close to the eye. Wash it after 15 minutes. Repeat it twice or thrice a day.
These home remedies are meant to work superficially and not on the underlying cause for the dark circles. Hence these should only be used in conjunction with the prescribed treatment for your child’s condition if any.
What Are The Risk Factors And Complications Of Dark Circles?
Dark circles may not pose any risk to your child’s health, but the underlying cause may have complications. So, it is important to identify and treat the underlying condition, which can be diagnosed based on other symptoms. In the case of severe conditions, such as allergic rhinitis and asthma, consult your doctor and follow the prescribed treatment plan, as some of the underlying causes could be a precursor to emergencies such as anaphylactic shock or an asthma attack.
Frequently Asked Questions
1. What deficiency causes dark circles in children?
Contrary to popular belief, dark circles in children are not caused by iron deficiency, anemia, or vitamin deficiency (1).
2. Will reducing screen time reduce dark circles in children?
Screen exposure for a long time may cause sleep disturbances in children (12). It may, in turn, lead to dark circles due to insufficient sleep.
3. Are dark circles in children related to liver issues?
Dr. Rapoport observes, “In children, it is unlikely for liver issues to be the cause of dark circles.”
Dark circle’s under a child’s eye can be treated with the help of proper sleep and nutritious food. You could also use specific home remedies such as cold compress or applying almond oil to the area under the eyes but refer to the doctor beforehand to ensure they are safe and do not lead to complications. If dark circles persist even after the home remedies, it is advised that you consult a doctor or pediatrician at the earliest to find out about the underlying cause and get medical care as soon as possible.
Infographic: Possible Causes Of Dark Circles Around Children’s Eyes
Although not very common, children may develop dark circles, which may be due to exhaustion, sleeplessness, genetics, and other factors. They usually resolve once the specific cause is identified and treated. The infographic below explains the possible reasons for dark circles in children.
2. Chien-Han Chen, et al.; Quantitative assessment of allergic shiners in children with allergic rhinitis; The Journal of Allergy and Clinical Immunology
3. Meyer B. Marks, Allergic Shiners Dark Circles Under the Eyes in Children; Clinical Pediatrics
4. Peter Small, Paul K. Keith, and Harold Kim; Allergic rhinitis; Practical guide for allergy and immunology in Canada 2018
5. Knowing and Treating Your Early Warning Asthma Signs Can Reduce the Need for Emergency Room Visits; Asthma and Allergy Foundation of America
6. Rashmi Sarkar, et al.; Periorbital Hyperpigmentation: A Comprehensive Review; The Journal of Clinical and Aesthetic Dermatology
7. Neuroblastoma; Medline Plus; US National Library of Medicine
8. Zeeshan Ahmad; The uses and properties of almond oil; Complementary therapies in clinical practice
9. H. Murad; Evaluating The Potential Benefits Of Cucumbers For Improved Health And Skin Care; The Journal of Aging Research and Clinical Practice
10. Anna Poma, Gabriella Fontecchio, Giuseppe Carlucci, and Giuseppe Chichiricco; Anti-inflammatory properties of drugs from saffron Crocus. Antiinflamm Antiallergy Agents Med Chem; Anti-Inflammatory & Anti-Allergy Agents in Medicinal Chemistry
11. Thanya Promsorn; Development Of Herbal Facial Mask Cream From Suan Sunandha Palace Facial Beauty; International Journal of Advances in Science Engineering and Technology
12. What Are Those Dark Circles Under My Child’s Eyes?; Health University of Utah
13. Screen Time Insomnia; Children’s Health Orange County
14. Dark Circles Under the Eyes; Tufts Medical Center
15. Dark Circles Under the Eyes; Cleveland Clinic